B2B Selling has Changed – Have You?

I don’t know if you have noticed a major change in selling, yet, I started to notice some major changes in the B2B Selling World during the past four years. And, yes, the Great Recession has a major role in the changing dynamic of our world of selling.

First, let’s look at some of the trends started during the past four to five years.

  • Consolidation of Industries and Niche Industries
  • Customers demand lower costs
  • Product Knowledge is known by our customers & prospects
  • Old techniques and tactics are basically useless
  • Real Decision Makers have disappeared from the Sales Process

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How Discover the Information You Need

Since I am a total proponent for the Questioning Model in Sales, how do you use this model to learn the Information you need to successfully make the B2B sales?

Obviously, you use questions during your discovery process as you want the prospect or customer doing most of the talking. Their answering questions allows you to learn about what is going on within their organization.

Note: even the very best b2b sales superstar is NOT an insider for the prospect or customer company. While it is important to have a coach or champion who wants you to win the account, not all the time will you have this person in place. And, sometimes (this has definitely happened to me) your inside champion leaves or is promoted away from your target area.

Now what do you do?

You plan your questions carefully to uncover the answers to several important pieces of information.

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Track Leading Indicators to B2B Sales Success

One of the most interesting topics about goal setting and achieving greater results in upcoming quarters is to be tracking specific indicators. Now the truth is – most b2b sales people (and sales management) – are only tracking lagging indicators. Thus, a lack of predictability of achieving any form of serious growth goals and objectives.

Most people are tracking their sales results and possibly their gross margin data, however, these are all lagging indicators. Meaning these data is found in the history statements of what you have done and there is no way to change the past.

Leading indicators are those specific guides or triggers – usually related to your sales process – which then followed lead to certain levels of success. And, tracking your leading indicators every day will lead to greater success and sales results.

I first discovered these leading indicators back in the late 80’s when I was still doing activity based sales (the traditional model of selling). It was a simple system for tracking my personal results. I basically tracked five things – 4 leading and 1 lagging indicator.

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Three Elements of Persuasion

Persuasion is  one of the most important traits every b2b sales person must possess. However, it also seems to be one of the most misunderstood success habits in the b2b sales person’s arsenal.

The interesting thing about persuasion is the Greeks figured it out back in the 3rd Century. The famous Greek philosopher – Aristotle – pointed out there are three key elements to the persuasion. When you understand the three elements, you will understand how to use persuasion every day.

So, here is what Aristotle determined back in the 3rd Century…

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The Lost Art of Qualifying a Prospect

One of the most interesting challenges I encounter with b2b sales people is the Art of Qualifying a Prospect. It does not seem to matter if the b2b sales person is a newbie or an old pro, there seems to be a disconnect with qualifying a prospect.

The key factor is many b2b sales people losing this skill or art if you may – is due to their sales managers telling them that everyone is a customer. They just need to overcome all their objections and they will buy and become customers.

Interesting scenario if you believe the above statement is true.

Actually, this out dated belief comes from the Traditional Presentation Model of Selling since it is all about telling the prospect or customer what they need. Again, you need to unlearn old habits or old training tactics that are causing you more harm than good in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.

To stand out from the thundering herd of b2b sales people who are calling on your prospects and customers using the same old school sales tactics, you need to revisit the Art of Qualifying a Prospect.

There are several factors or elements to consider while evaluating your prospects and customers.

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How to Learn if You Have a Business Fit with a Prospect?

Last week I had a couple of people ask me about “how do you know if you have a business fit with a prospect?” Which I thought was a good question and there are probably a few others out there wanting to know the answer to this question.

So, let’s discuss a business fit. What exactly is a business fit? I feel there are actually two levels to consider when answering this question.

The first one is about having a ROI for your outcome to assist the potential customer or prospect in making a decision. Therefore, this answer is more about business acumen and knowing the financial results of your offering. This is more of a logical approach.

The second is -in my opinion – more important to discover and reflect upon during your visits with a potential customer. What I’m talking about here is more of a psychographical point of view. This is about the potential customer’s ability to fit with your company and especially your offer.

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Use Process Milestones for Accurate B2B Sales Forecasts

Recently I wrote about how to identify your b2b sales process and then identifying the major steps in the process – the sales milestones. These are important to you since they are like having a road map to gaining b2b sales success.

So in this b2b sales tips on sales forecasting, I will explain how to use the milestones to gain an accurate picture of your sales pipeline.

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B2B Sales is a Process Rather than an Event

Interestingly I am questioned frequently by b2b sales people and sales managers about how to make b2b sales work right every time.

Well, sometime the answer is not what they want to hear. “B2B Selling is simply a Process.”

Yet, the traditionally trained sales people and sales managers want it to be an event. You know what I mean here – make a single call, talk to a decision maker and get a contract!

Yes, it did work that way – back in the 50’s and 60’s when everything you could make was sold immediately. That was a special time in the world of selling. Basically all markets were being created at the time and growth was the name of the game. IF you could build it, you could sell it and sell it quickly.

Today is a totally different game. Due to things like the internet – which told away the sales person role as the holder of product knowledge – and global competition for products (as in cheaper.) we have a new set of challenges.

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Myth of the Quick Fix in B2B Sales

Today is a little different topic from the normal b2b sales tips, however, it is one that bothers me due to the number of b2b sales managers and people who are believers in the myth.

That’s right, there is no quick fix for b2b sales success.

Learning the ins and outs of today’s b2b sales is a process – just like the b2b sales process, it takes time to learn to master the differences in each b2b sales situation.

So how do deal with this learning issue? The solution is quite simple. Here is a “quick list” of things you can do to prepare for a lifetime of b2b sales success…

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